It is winter once again in Chicago. The harsh winds and short grey days call for comfort food and quiet reflection as we prepare ourselves for the chaos of the coming holiday season. This time of year will always make me think of the time we spent living in southern Germany; the winters there were not nearly as violent as they are in Chicago, but they were very long and soggy. The weekly markets that were our primary source of produce offered strictly local vegetables and it forced us to adapt to the seasonality of food.
While we still keep this habit today, it is infinitely easier to push a shopping cart around a heated supermarket where hot house tomatoes and pineapples from central America compete for attention with the root vegetables I am craving. I load my basket with a rainbow of heirloom carrots, gold and ruby beets, lavender-hued turnips, ghostly parsnips, and thick bulbs of crisp fennel. Now armed with a bountiful supply of winter vegetables I head to my kitchen and get to work. Scrubbed and scraped clean, I prep them in rustic thick slices and then toss with olive oil and a generous splash of lovely fig vinegar from Maille, and finish with wet sea salt and crushed black peppercorns.
As they roast in the oven my mind drifts back to our tiny German kitchen, the window facing the steps up to the house where my neighbors so often passed, waving politely, and probably wondering why I spent so much time cooking for just us two. Having only each other for comfort, it was a quiet existence and a big change from the busy life we had in Chicago. We’re still adjusting to being back, and though we have resumed parts of our busy lives, we cling to the quiet comfort of our home and each other.
Roasted Winter Vegetables
2 medium parsnips (sliced)
2 medium turnips (sliced)
2 bunches of rainbow carrots (or any carrots you prefer; thinner ones work better for roasting)
3 small/medium red beets (sliced)
3 small/medium gold beets (sliced)
1 bulb of fennel (sliced)
3 tablespoons of Maille Vinegar Infused with Fig Puree
2 tablespoons of olive oil
sea salt and cracked pepper
Preheat oven to 350’F
Gently scrub and dry all your vegetables. Gently peel the turnips, slice off the top and bottom and cut them long ways and slice in half. When handling red beets, if you don’t want to walk around with pinkish hands the next day you should wear gloves. Cut off the top and bottoms of the beets and reserve the leaves. Did you know that beet leaves are edible and can be cooked in the same manner as chard? With a sharp vegetable peeler, peel the both golden and scarlet beets and slice them.
Toss the vegetables in the olive oil and vinegar, and season generously with sea salt and cracked pepper. Roast the vegetables for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Most recipes will tell you to place the roasted root vegetable on baking sheets in one layer and toss halfway through, however, I like to layer mine in a dish ratatouille style, so the flavors can mingle. You won’t have charred or crunchy bits of roasted vegetables but they will be dark and caramelized on top, crisp in the middle, and tender underneath. This succulent dish pairs nicely with a roast chicken and a dry riesling. When plating, dress vegetables with an extra drizzle of fig dressing and enjoy.